I thought cutting down on sugar was enough.
Not that I never indulge in a slice of cake. But rather than having sweets after every meal, sprinkling my muesli with chocolate chips and eating cookies with afternoon tea (yes, I have a VERY sweet tooth), I now eat only a small piece of chocolate after dinner. And maybe a brownie when I eat out with friends.
It’s hard. But hey, at least I’ve still got pizza. And my mum’s lasagne. And rice. And bread.
Or so I thought. Cos, turns out, all that stuff is just sugar in disguise. *sighs*
How Grains Turn Into Sugar
Warning: little science lesson ahead (I promise, I won’t make it boring. 🙂 ).
Grains have carbs. They’re called starch. Starch is a polysaccharide (complex carbohydrate) made up of long strings of sugar units attached to each other.
When you eat grains, your body breaks down their starch into single sugar molecules.
Don’t believe me? Try chewing a piece of bread for longer than usual. It becomes sweeter and sweeter as the minutes pass.
So, how much sugar is in starch? Well, 4g of starchy carbohydrates = 1 teaspoon of sugar!
So, What The Heck Is Wrong With Sugar?
Oh, where do I start?
Sugar causes glycation. That’s a fancy way of saying it reacts with facts and proteins in an abnormal way, producing something called “advanced glycation endproducts” (or AGEs for short – oh, the irony!).
Here’s how glycation makes you age faster:
- It destroys collagen and elastin, the proteins that keep your skin firm and elastic
- It causes dark spots
- It triggers chronic inflammation, which in turn forms wrinkles
It’s not just chocolate and cake that do this. Grains are to blame, too. If your diet’s too high in all this stuff, those wrinkles and dark spots are gonna get you sooner rather than later.Did you know that grains turn to sugar in your body? Hello, wrinkles!
Wait, But Aren’t Grains Digested More Slowly?
In theory, yes. Simple sugars as glucose are absorbed quickly, causing a quick spike in your blood sugar and insulin levels. Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, do this but much more slowly.
In practice, it depends on what type of starch you eat. Each one is different and affects your body differently.
That’s why scientists created the glycemic index (GI), a scale that tells how quickly a certain food raises your blood sugar level after eating. The lower the GI, the more slowly the increase in glucose and insulin in.
In this scale, the GI of glucose is arbitrarily set at 100 and all other foods are compared to eat. Here are a few examples:
|White wheat bread||70|
|Wholemeal whole wheat bread||69|
White rice is way higher than table sugar! Shocking, isn’t it?
Why Your Body Doesn’t Like Grains That Much
I’m going to go a big Paleo on you now and nope, I don’t follow a Paleo diet. I need my cheese.
Anyway, here’s the deal. Your body doesn’t know it’s 2017. It still behaves like you’re still in the Paleo era, where you only ate what grew spontaneously from the ground or the animals you killed.
Humans discovered agriculture only 10,000 years ago, at the beginning of the Neolithic era. But, even then, they didn’t eat as much grains as we do today.
Now, we start the day with muesli, snack on crackers, have a sandwich or pasta for lunch, eat a couple of loaves of bread at dinner… You get the point.
Your body isn’t equipped to deal with so much grains.
So, Should You Stop Eating Grains?
Of course, not. Your body and your brain do need some sugar to function properly.
Grains (and their carbs) themselves aren’t the problem. The problem is that we’re eating way more of them than we actually need.
So, cut back. Here’s how:
1. Eat Fewer “Bad Starches”
If it has a high GI index, avoid it as much as possible. I love rice, but now I go for the brown kind. And have it two or three times a month, rather than every week.
Same with pizza. You’ll have to kill before you can take that away from me. But, I’ve noticed that when I eat a full pizza, my body complains. My stomach burns and I don’t feel that energetic. So, rather than a whole pizza each week, I just eat a few slices twice a month.
2. Replace Bad Carbs With Healthier Alternatives
And yes, they can be just as tasty. For example, I’ve replaced muesli with a bowl of berries, nuts, coconut flakes and Greek yoghurt in the morning. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever did. It’s just as delicious, but now I feel full for longer and pass gas a lot less often (sorry for the vivid image!).
The Bottom Line
Food is medicine, but it’s also pleasure. If you love something, don’t cut it out of your diet completely. That’ll just make you miserable. And who wants to stick to a diet that makes them miserable? But, I think we all agree our current Western diet ain’t working for anyone. Making a few tweaks here and there can make you healthier and keep those wrinkles off your face, too.
Did this post shock you? How much grains are you eating? Will you cut back?